- Most nationalities need a visa, which must be arranged in advance. If you’re arriving by air, online visa agents (www.vietnamvisachoice.com) are more efficient than embassies.
- ATMs widely available, except well off the beaten track. Credit cards accepted in most midrange and luxury hotels, but rarely in restaurants or stores.
- To avoid roaming charges, local SIM cards can be used in most European, Asian and Australian (and many North American) phones.
- Vietnam is seven hours ahead of GMT/UTC.
When to go
High Season (Jul-Aug)
- Prices increase by up to 50% by the coast; book hotels well in advance.
- All Vietnam, except the far north, is hot and humid, with the summer monsoon bringing downpours.
- During the Tet festival, the whole country is on the move and prices rise.
- North of Nha Trang can get cool weather. Except cold conditions in the far north.
- In the south, clear skies and sunshine are the norm.
Low Season (Apr-Jun, Sep-Nov)
- Perhaps the best time to tour the whole nation.
- Typhoons can lash the central and northern coastline until November.
- Vietnam Coracle (http://vietnamcoracle.com) Excellent independent travel advice from a long-term resident.
- The Word (www.wordhcmc.com) This comprehensive magazine has excellent features.
- Thanh Nien News (www.thanhniennews.com) Government-approved news, but includes diverse and interesting content.
- Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/vietnam) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.
- The Economist (www.economist.com/topics/vietnam) Analytical and provocative articles.
- Vietnam Online (www.vietnamonline.com) Good all-rounder.
- To call Vietnam from outside, drop the initial O from the area code. Mobile numbers begin with 09 or 01.
- Country Code84
- International Access Code 00
- Directory Assistance 116
- Police 113
- General In formation Service 1080
- Australia A$1 20,301d
- Canada C$1 20,305d
- Euro 29,070d
- Japan 21,678d
- New Zealand NZ$1 17,676d
- UK 34,093d
- US US$1 21,085d
- For current exchange rates see www.xe.com
Budget: Less than US$40
- Glass of bia hoi: from US$0.50
- One hour on a local bus: US$1-1.50
- Cheap hotel: US$10-15 a night, dorms less
- Local meal of noodles: US$1.50-2.50
- Comfortable double room: US$20-50
- Meal in a smart restaurant: from US$5
- One-hour massage: US$6-20
- Ten-minute taxi ride: US$4
Top End: More than US$100
- Luxury hotel room: from US$0
- Gourmet restaurant: from US$15
- Most internal flights: US$30-75
Opening hours vary very little throughout the year.
- Restaurants: 11.30am-9pm
- Banks: 8am-3pm weekdays, 8am-11.20am Saturday
- Offices and museums: 7am or 8am to 5pm or 6pm. Museums generally close on Monday.
- Temples and pagodas: 5am-9pm
- Shops: 8am-6pm
Arriving in Vietnam
Tan Son Nhat International Airport
- Taxis to central districts cost 175,000d and around 30 minutes. There’s also an air-conditioned bus (Route 152) to the centre (5000d, every 15 minutes, 6am-6pm, around 40 minutes).
Noi Bai Airport
- Taxis to the centre cost 400,000d and take around one hour. The Vietnam Airlines minibus costs 60,000d and runs every 30 minutes. Route 17 public bus from airport to Long Bien bus station (walking distance to the Old Quarter) is 5000d.
- Buses are the main mode of transport for locals in Vietnam, but travellers tend to prefer planes, trains and automobiles.
- Reasonably priced and comfortable enough if you score an air-conditioned carriage (and a sleeper on overnight routes). But note there are no real express trains.
- Very cheap if you book ahead (often less than the equivalent bus fare) and the network is pretty comprehensive. However, cancellations are quite common.
- Very useful for travelling at your own pace or for visiting regions with minimal public transport. Cars always come with a driver as part of the rental deal.
- On the main highways services are quite good, although it’s not a particularly relaxing way to travel. In remote areas things deteriorate rapidly. Open-tour